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What Happens in Vegas…

Habana-Hafner Family
Jim Hafner, Sally Habana-Hafner, and her husband, Jim Hafner

This love story begins in, of all places, Las Vegas. “I came to the United States to be an entertainer,” said Sally Habana-Hafner. Sally was an 18-year-old college student in the Philippines when she heard about an audition for a Philippine Festival Show in Las Vegas. Months later she found herself dancing on a Vegas stage. “It didn’t last very long because it was too decent a show.” Sally laughed. Her career as a Vegas showgirl lasted one glorious year in which she got to hang with Elvis and Sammy Davis, Jr. among other Vegas entertainers. Frustrated by the Vegas lights, Sally quit showbiz to go back to college where, as fate would have it, she met her husband, Jim Hafner.

Jim first laid eyes upon Sally at a party for the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. Jim wanted to ask Sally out, but in accordance to Filipino tradition he first asked permission from Sally’s brother-in-law. Six months later they were engaged. Jim’s parents were warm and open to Sally. There were other members of his family, however, that were not quite as gracious. A priest even discouraged Jim from marrying Sally.

“People look at us like the mail-order bride or a military marriage. That was the type of stereotype at that time,” said Sally. These feelings never affected their relationship. Forty-five years, three children, and eight grandchildren later Sally and Jim laugh at the warnings against their “mixed-marriage.”


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4 Responses to “What Happens in Vegas…”

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  • Hey Jim — Didn’t get this audio yet — will try to find you on facebook too! Love the photo, can’t wait to hear the stories… ; )

    Comment from Jill on January 21, 2009 at 9:14 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Wow! I never knew that Aunt Sally had aspirations to be an entertainer! This is so cool! And she got to hang out with Elvis!?!?!?
    I really want to listen to those interviews with her and Uncle Jim. You should send me a copy!

    Comment from Pang on January 19, 2009 at 2:44 am - Reply to this Comment
  • Can report that my mom is a bit horrified that her coming out on the blogosphere is focuses on her brief stint in show biz … and not on her lifelong career as a loving mom, partner, academic and activist for social change/justice.

    StoryCorps and sharing the resulting recording was a great experience – as was Nina. Given her childhood obsession with Flower Drum Song, not surprised to see the Vegas story on the blog

    To set the record straight: SouthEAST Asian Studies.

    Comment from Jim Habana-Hafner on January 14, 2009 at 11:35 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • I envy Mrs. Habana-Hafner. I sure would have liked to have had a year of being an entertainer in Vegas! Especially, during the heyday she describes. Of course, I also have a soft spot for South Asian Studies. What a great story!

    Comment from Jeremy on December 21, 2008 at 4:02 am - Reply to this Comment

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